How to Create a Portfolio Website — From Square One

There are countless types of businesses and freelancers who would benefit from having a well-designed portfolio website: artists, photographers, fashion designers, jewelers, sign makers, and anyone else whose work needs to be showcased in a highly visual format. If this sounds like you, and you want to learn how to create a portfolio website, read on!

Start with a theme

Unless you’ve got some serious coding and design chops (and a lot of time to spare), you’ll want to pick a portfolio website theme rather than try to build your own site from scratch. You’ll find there are both Premium (paid) and free themes. Premium themes tend to offer more design features or cater to more specific audiences, but whether you go Premium or free might simply come down to whether you have extra money in your budget.

You can start by checking out all the latest portfolio themes at WordPress.com, which showcases the work of both in-house designers and leading theme shops. Need help figuring out the technical details? WordPress.com provides a comprehensive theme support page. Regardless of whether you choose a Premium or free theme, make sure you read your specific theme’s documentation carefully to learn exactly how to best use it.

The helpful seven

After settling on a portfolio website theme, you’ll still want to figure out what to actually include in your portfolio. The following are eight things to consider when creating your online portfolio:

  1. Culling: If you’re a wedding photographer, a first-time visitor probably won’t want to look through hundreds of examples of your work. So winnow things down to the top-10 shots you feel best exemplify your talents. Conversely, if you’re a newbie with a light portfolio, consider highlighting different aspects of the same project to fill the gap.

  2. Place your best work first and last: If you’re like most people, when you see a list of 10 things, you don’t notice or remember all 10 of them — you only remember the first and last couple of items. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon called the “serial position effect.” So put your best or most recent work — as well as the work you most want to be hired for — in the first and last two slots, which will help prospective clients notice and remember the work you most want them to.

  3. Provide verbal context: When a prospective client clicks a portfolio image, you have an opportunity to explain to them why they need what you have to offer. This can come in various forms: a client testimonial, a description of what the work entailed, or, if at all possible, the successful outcome(s) of your work. If the work in question required rare skills or contains a fascinating detail that you want to highlight, put that into words. At the same time, don’t go overboard — sum up what’s special or unique about your work in one paragraph or less. A fashion designer, for example, might touch on the significance of a pattern or color in their collection.

  4. Bad pictures make good work look bad: Take good pictures. Seems obvious, right? Yet plenty of talented people ruin their portfolio websites by taking and using bad pictures. You don’t have to have a $2,000 camera to make your work shine. Good lighting, a modern smartphone, and a little photo editing is all you need to make your products stand out on a computer screen.

  5. Categories: Categorizing your portfolio images makes sense when you have lots of great work to showcase and the work falls into distinct category areas that prospective clients might want to explore individually. A good rule of thumb to determine whether you need categories: if each category is going to attract a different type of person or have different payment terms, use categories; otherwise, don’t. If you’re a photographer who shoots both weddings and portraits, for instance, you’ll want to feature separate categories.

  6. Homepage: Should your portfolio page be your site’s homepage or a separate page? If you need to introduce your company and provide broader context before jumping into your work, separate your main portfolio page from your homepage while still offering teaser portfolio pieces on the homepage itself.

  7. Call to action: Put a call to action on your portfolio image click-throughs. This can be text with a link to your contact page or a button. A call to action can help measure how much your visitors are engaging with your business’s web presence — and give them an easy way to express interest. The Daily Post, a WordPress.com community hub, offers a helpful, more detailed discussion.

Keep at it

Now that you have a better idea of how to create a portfolio website, be sure to keep that site updated. Schedule one day per month to add your latest, greatest projects (because if you don’t put it on your calendar, chances are you won’t do it), as fresh content is crucial to drawing more visitors. If you’re a woodworker, for instance, it might help to post a photo of each major project you finish, providing a compelling, ongoing, and varied chronicle of your work.

Now, pick that portfolio website theme and get your work out there!

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